Doug Avery, author of The Resilient Farmer, has launched a new workshop to help farmers improve their mental health and their businesses.
The pressure of a high workload over an extended period can create illness or fatigue, often in the form of the “silent killers” such as high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.
While you wouldn’t baulk at making informed decisions about stock, pastures or crops, it’s sometimes too easy to forget about making good decisions about the overall management of your staff and indeed your own time to keep things on an even keel.
Tired pastures lead to a dip in production, so get “fixed” with renovation or replacement. In much the same vein, staff and family also need rest, good nutrition and some form of recreation to perform at their best too. People working at their optimum make for a more productive business, better levels of morale and ultimately an improvement to the bottom line.
Looking at the broader picture, research suggests that many sheep and beef farmers face a greater risk of accidents over summer, with longer days coupled with family commitments leading to potential fatigue Likewise, during those busy times, meals are typically eaten “on the run” at irregular times, or long periods are spent sat on tractor seats, in the same position, with no other exercise.
As the Work/Life balance swings in the wrong direction, particularly if the financial situation is tight, some owners or workers can easily feel overwhelmed, a situation that gets compounded, particularly if they are unwell or overtired.
So, what can we do to make sure we don’t get sucked into this downward vortex, both for our own health and that of our employees? If you are an employer, use available resources like the DairyNZ website to get information on the basics like good rostering.
From a personal standpoint, forward plan to make sure you get a few days away from the farm.
Whether it’s a game of golf or some fishing with a few mates, or even a meal, a show and a night away with the “other half”- it’s a great way to give the battery a recharge.
If you are feeling unwell, or indeed overwhelmed, reach out and seek some help.
That might be a chat with a spouse, a neighbour who understands the pressures you’re facing, or your GP.
Reaching out doesn’t me you’ve failed or you’re a bit of a “softie” – it means you’re responsible in realising that your health or that of your staff is paramount.
After all, stress and fatigue lead to poor decisions and irrational though processes, that leads to increased costs to the business, missed opportunities, risk of injuries, or ultimately fatalities. What would you do if key members of your workforce fell ill or left because they felt worn out, or how would the farm operate, and your family cope without you?
Investment in your own and your staff’s welfare has no downsides, only the benefits of greater well-being, better morale and the ability to overcome the challenges that life throws at us.